Beware of political issues that can quickly transform
Published 7:30 am Wednesday, January 30, 2002
For the past year, Alabama's educational news has dominated headlines. In particular, the lack of funding for education was ranked the biggest story of the year in the state for 2001.
Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and the state Legislature apparently fixed that problem during their final special session of last year. And based on news from the past week, education funding may take a back seat for the next few years if recent reports are accurate.
First, Siegelman announced an extra $4 million would be released to eligible school districts where students have a hard time passing the state's tough Graduation Exit Exam. Escambia County surely will benefit from that grant.
Recently, the Associated Press released a report that Alabama will receive an extra $34 million for the education of disadvantaged children.
The money, made available by the federal government, provides a 31-percent increase in Title I funding. Title I money normally goes to schools where 50 percent of the students live at, or below, the poverty line. Now, the requirement for Title I money has been made more liberal. Schools where 40 percent of the students live at, or below, the poverty line will receive part of the $34 million.
All this leads to a serious question about politics in general: Are issues created and resolved for political purposes more than anything else?
The answer is yes and no. First, there's no denying that state revenues were down last year. As with any other business in America, a recession hurt profits everywhere, and in that sense, funding for education was not just a political issue in Alabama.
Economically, things have not changed much in Alabama, or anywhere else for that matter. Companies have not started rehiring. The government isn't getting any more money than it was a year ago. So why the quick fix to education funding?
That's why citizens should question whether education funding was transformed, by politicians, from a serious problem into a life or death situation.
This is election year in Alabama. You can bet the fix of education funding will get its fair share of media coverage when candidates begin their political blitzes. That's when Alabamians should realize that when politicians tell you schools will collapse and football programs will end, they're probably stretching the truth a bit.